Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) veterans Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort threw down last night (May 12, 2018) at UFC 224 from inside Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Both of these men once wore UFC gold, but they are fast approaching the end of the respective careers. Machida avoided retirement last time out by out-pointing a dangerous young fighter, whereas Belfort came into this bout remarking that it would be his last ... while also showing interest in fighting Fedor Emelianenko. Either way, it may not have been relevant, but the Rio de Janeiro fans were treated to a classic match up of Brazilian legends.
As expected, this bout opened with a lot of patience and feints from both men. Machida began to open up with some reasonably effective kicks about two minutes in, and Belfort attempted to answer with a flurry. Mostly, however, Machida fought from his distance and scored with kicks.
Machida did an excellent job of picking his kicks in the first round. From the Southpaw stance, he mostly worked on his foe’s lead leg, but he also switched Orthodox to work the body kick. Belfort actually landed reasonably well with a flurry with about 60 seconds remaining, but Belfort did not increase his aggression afterward.
Machida racked up points for all his outside kicks and absorbed very few punches across the opening five minutes.
Belfort’s corner begged him to increase the volume, and he tried to answer their call by charging forward with body shots. Machida responded by doubling up on his kicking offense, calming “The Phenom” back down. Moments later, Machida feinted with his hips and fired a front kick directly into Belfort’s jaw.
It was an incredible combination of Machida’s previous knockout of Randy Couture and Anderson Silva’s own stoppage of Vitor Belfort.
This was pretty much exactly what “The Dragon” wanted to do. Exchanging with Belfort in the pocket was a risky proposition considering both men can still punch hard, but Machida owned the kickboxing range. It was slow at times and drew the ire of the crowd, but the end result was a highlight reel knockout without taking any damage.
Can’t question the results.
What’s next for Lyoto Machida? It’s hard to say, as his call out of Michael Bisping was certainly reasonable, but Bisping seems rather retired. He still has some fight left in him, but hopefully the UFC is smart enough to not match him with some top 10-ranked knockout artist next time out.
Belfort has always struggled with men who kick him at a distance, and while his left kick gave him something of an answer to that problem in recent years, that kick only works so well opposite Orthodox fighters. Opposite a fellow Southpaw, Belfort’s lack of range weapons left him only with the option of charging forward. Belfort is generally more hesistant to do that nowadays, and Machida provided him no opportunities to counter punches because he almost solely kicked.
Unless Belfort found the perfect shot in one of his flurries, he wasn’t going to win this fight.
Ultimately, Belfort left his gloves in the cage, signalling his permanent retirement. We’ll see if it sticks, but that definitely seems the best move at this stage of the legend’s life.
Last night, Lyoto Machida retired Vitor Belfort with a front kick to the jaw. Who should ‘The Dragon’ face next?
For complete UFC 224: “Nunes vs. Pennington” results and play-by-play, click HERE!